My Dell/Alienware BAD Customer Service Story - Since December 2017 (HELP!) Buckle Up!

johnvene

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Feb 7, 2018
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Back in early December 2017 I was in the market for a gaming laptop, I previously only purchased HP products for about 10 years and my last laptop was an MSI. I ended up doing some research and the Alienware 15R3 had everything I wanted, it was a little over my original budget but I went ahead and purchased it Dec/07/2017 for ~$1500. It arrived a little earlier than expected to my surprise. This is my first time ever purchasing a Dell product but due to some researching, I figured to step out of my boundaries since it seems this was the laptop for me.



A few days after receiving it and installing well over 250gb of all my programs/software/games I decided to change the wallpaper, I found one online that was an Alienware wallpaper similar to the default one these laptops come with but this one had a red background. Right away I noticed the wallpaper flickering, in particular when I moved the mouse but it would also flicker at rest (noticeably). I thought, "This might just be one of those active wallpapers" but no, I went back to google and concluded that anything that was in the color red would flicker/pulsate in my screen, if I hooked up the laptop to an external monitor then these symptoms wouldn't show... Obviously resulting in the problem being within the laptops hardware/software.

I graduated early last year in Information Technology (Bachelor's Degree) in a reputable University and have since then been working as tech support at a big company in Miami Florida. So naturally, I went ahead and did some basic troubleshooting myself, updates/drivers/screen-resolution/color calibration etc... Nothing worked so I showed the issue to my highest experienced co-workers and they couldn't figure out the issue either and told me to contact Dell. Here it all starts, once I contacted tech-support this is were my terrible and inconvenient venture started.



In the beginning, the tech-support agent went through all the basics, nothing worked. After following up with me and having gone through several agents which conducted updates for my drivers, video card, touch-pad, BIOS, ran several screen tests and also uninstalled and reinstalled drivers etc etc etc... They figured I had to reset my PC. At this point we are about ~3 weeks since I originally contacted them and I've been dealing with tech support several times a week for a very high amount of hours (Even during work at times). So I ran the computer reset without keeping my files and once again, the issue was still there. Last, they instructed me to do a clean O.S install. I performed this during work hours and installed the latest version of windows through a USB boot up, this also didn't resolve the issue. By now, I have documented around 9 agents I have spoken with including 2-3 supervisors. I also sent several videos in order for them to see the problem I was having since they couldn't see it remotely. The last supervisor I spoke with mentioned me getting a replacement laptop and due to all my personal time spent plus all the inconveniences that comes with that I was told to contact them once I receive the replacement to compensate me with a keyboard and/or mouse. (This never happened)

Now I have the replacement, once again it arrived earlier than expected so that was good, I opened it right away, set up windows and went straight to check if this one could possibly also have the same issue, and it did... The same exact screen flickering and bizarre behavior whenever the color red is present... I contacted tech-support right away, to once again perform the same exact lengthy procedures that were performed in my original laptop plus A LOT more. By now, I'm about 5 weeks in since I first received first laptop and nearly a week of dealing with tech-support in the replacement laptop, so they concluded that they would send a technician over to my house to troubleshoot in person. I received a phone call within a couple of days from the technician and that same day he showed up to my house, I opened up both laptops in front of him and showed him the issues, then told him everything I have been through, he proceeded in troubleshooting and trying to resolve the issue for about 2 hours and once again... He couldn't resolve the issue.

That same day after the technician left I contacted tech-support once again, and they told me that they want to try a few other things, so I spent almost 2 more hours with an agent over the phone that was trying other things that weren't tried before, none solved my problem... I sent 2 videos showing both laptops side by side with their according service tag so they can once again see whats happening. Now they said that they have tried everything possible and that they needed to escalate this issue to a "Level-3" with the engineering deparment and that they would help me out and give me a resolution for everything that I have been through within 24/48hours, I called back to follow up to see if there were any updates or response from them (since I couldn't talk to the engineering department directly) and it ended up taking 4-5 days to receive a response, what was the respond you may ask? They said that they couldn't replicate the issue that I was having in their facilities and to do a full reinstallation of the Operating System in the replacement...Again...

I have been extremly patient up to this point but I must note that most if not all tech support agents and supervisors were good to me and genuinely tried helping me with my issue, the problem here is in Dell/Alienwares procedures that they must follow and with no exception must obey no matter the circumstances... So, I told them that I had already peformed a full Operating reinstall in my original laptop and it didn't work, I tried talking to several agents and it felt like some supervisor were avoiding me at this point until 1 agent told me that this will definitively be the last thing that I would have to do and basically left me with no choice but to perform a complete wipe of my system again that this time was done remotely by the software department... This was on a weekend and I was on the phone and dealing with this from ~5:30pm until about almost 11pm. As expected, when everything was finally done, the issue was still there, I asked if they wanted me to send more videos and they said they no longer need any evidence, that they already have enough. They were closing and this agent told me to call them back tomorrow and speak with a supervisor. So I called the next day spoke with 2 tech support agents that reviewed my whole case and talked with their supervisors to finally settle another resolution.

I was approved to get a 3rd exchange and this time naturally I told them that due to my colossal case and well over 40 hours of talk time by now plus my personal and work time invested into this I wouldn't want to receive the same exact laptop for a 3rd time. I was told by 2 agents this same day that were consulting with their supervisor (The one that offered me the keyboard/mouse that never happened) that there should be no reason why I shouldn't receive an upgraded laptop or the same one with upgrades. They told me specifically and repeatedly that I will receive a phone call within 24/48 hours (before receiving and E-mail) from the exchange department and that I'll be talking with them about the upgrades for my insane amount of troubles. I'm always on top of my phone and a couple of days later, no phone call, but an E-Mail stating that they want my address to send me for the 3rd time the same exact laptop with the same exact specs... At this very point I started to feel frustrated, I tried getting in contact with the exchange associate and he wasn't on site, I replied to the E-Mail explaining everything and that I was told I wouldn't get the same laptop for a 3rd time AND also had 2 tech-support agents that sent him an E-Mail to get in contact with me.. They told me I should expect a phone call once again within 24/48hrs. 5 Days passed without any reply or attempt to contact me... Within those 5 days I would call to get an update and they told me he wasn't working or was working from home, within those 5 days they tried getting a hold of him or his supervisor and sent him even more E-Mails to call me, they also tried handing my case to another agent in the exchange department but then told me they couldn't do that. Once I received the phone call, they told me that due to Dell policy they can't offer me or compensate me with anything and that the only thing they could do was extend my warranty (Which I absolutely do not need since my warranty is until mid-2019). I got a little mad at this point but kept it to myself and kept talking to this exchange agent, I said that there has to be a way to get a hold of a higher department so that they could see everything that I have gone through and do something for me, so he had he had to E-Mail this particular department and wait for a response with zero guarantees.

Now, reaching the end of my rather exceptionally and unpleasant story. I was told to call customer-care if I wanted to file a complaint and after being transferred within 3 different countries in the globe, I finally got a hold of them. I told them my whole story which I really started to get tired of repeating over and over again, only to get a response that there is absolutely nothing they can do for me, I asked if there is any way that I can reach or speak to anyone in corporate and they told me, no. In a desperate attempt to get a hold of corporate I ran into some forums that recommended that the best way to get attention from corporate is apparently through twitter, and so with my inactive and barely used twitter account I sent Dell a long message with everything that I have been through, only to get yet another response basically stating that they will keep an eye on my case and that there are no guarantees. Already losing the little hopes I had, I received a phone call within a day from the exchange department, telling me that they spoke with 2 department managers (one of those departments was corporate) and explained everything I have been through, that they tried pushing for me to receive any upgrade but these departments rejected the request stating that this is out of Dells procedures and that all they could offer was to extend my already extended warranty...


Today, well over a month of trouble and speaking with Dell for every single day for the past week and a half hoping for a resolution that never happened, I asked what happens if this 3rd laptop out of bad luck gives me issues? what if this 3rd laptop gives me the same exact issue? for the third time... Their reply was that unfortunately you must go through all the procedures again with tech-support and that if that doesn't solve the issue with this 3rd laptop then we will provide you with a refund and you would send the laptop back to Dell... No options, no customer-service, I never had an option nor a say in all of this, just followed their procedures and waisted a colossal amount of time for something that I had nothing to do with but yet had to really go out of my way and deal with... Right there I told the agent, this is the worse experience I have ever dealt with as a consumer of anything that I have ever owned, put that 3rd laptop on hold as I am going to take into consideration returning the laptop and going back to HP or with another company that I know would of never put me through anything like this. Their reply? We will have to get in contact with a particular deparment to see if they approve your return and refund... I literally responded by saying that I have given up and I don't know what to do anymore, are you able to take the laptops back if I'm not approved a refund? I don't care about this refund, I just don't want to deal with this anymore and I am extremely tired from all of this. This was earlier this morning and they told me that they should most likely have an answer for me by tonight, worse case tomorrow and of course the rest of today went with no contact, no updates, no E-mails.

In conclusion, at this moment I'm already aiming to returning this laptop no matter the costs, ironically this is IF they let me, another agent today told me that I have 30 days since the date of purchase to return it, I told the agent that I received a replacement within those 30 days and their answer was that, that doesn't matter, those 30 days do not start over again just because you received a replacement. I'm looking back into HP which I dealt with for many many years and the 1 time I had a somewhat similar issue with them, within a few weeks they tried tech-support, once that didn't work then they told me to send it in through priority shipping, I got the laptop back after the issue was supposedly fixed but the issue came back within a few days, I told them, reported the issue and showed proof. No questions asked they offered me 2-3 laptops to pick from with upgrades due to the incovinience. This was also no cheap HP but a premium model I had originally purchased for about ~$1100 about 5 years ago.


Thank you for anyone that took the time to read this, I'm just sharing my frustrating story and hopefully seeking some help in my case, I don't even know if there is anything else I can do other than return the laptops and moving on. I still really like this Alienware very much and my intentions were to never return it, but unfortunately it has gotten to this point due to their super strict robot-like porfolio that they all must apparently obey. I have all the names of the agents and supervisors I have spoken with to this day and a few of course already know me. As long as this story was, there were of course many other troubles that I went through that I didn't include.

Any suggestions? Anything else on my power, beyond anything I haven't already tried?
-John
 

GreyCatz

Admirable
Here are a few thoughts:

1. Given the laptops on your short-list and considering your gaming-style - present and future - it seems the ASUS is the machine to get. OK, you'll have to wait a few weeks and it is quite expensive, but spend a few minutes reading this January 2018 article from an Indian review site:
https://gadgets.ndtv.com/laptops/reviews/asus-rog-strix-gl503-scar-edition-review-1800582

A lot of good things to note - with a few drawbacks - and their run-down of tested games seems tailor-made for you.


2. As for the future, right now Intel's 8th-gen laptop CPUs (Kaby Lake-R) are only available with a 15W TDP limit. Typically, gaming laptops start at 45W, but PCWorld did a fairly comprehensive test in November 2017 pitting an 8th-gen CPU against different 7th and 4th-gen CPUs (dual-cores and quad-cores):
https://www.pcworld.com/article/3235813/laptop-computers/intel-8th-gen-core-i7-review.html

While I'm not suggesting you should buy an 8th-gen laptop with a 1060 card (I believe the Surface Book 2 is the only one available), it is noteworthy that the 15W CPU actually does quite well against the quad-core, full-on gaming 45W versions. Part of the reason is that Intel has designed 8th-gens to boost up to 4GHz and 4.2GHz.

That doesn't necessarily make them suited for serious gaming, and the 8th-gens are still behind the 45W CPUs. But it is an indication of what you can expect once Intel releases a 45W Kaby Lake-R model. Exactly when this is going to happen I don't know (mid-2018?), but I'm pretty sure you'd be able to play every game you want with the less expensive 1060 card instead of paying more for a 1070 card and having to deal with the extra heat and noise.

Cheers,
GreyCatz.
 

GreyCatz

Admirable
Well, John, even buckled-up and wearing a helmet, that was quite a ride!

First off, I'm sorry to hear about your problem, which I regret to say seems to be unsolvable at the moment. Next:

1. Can you provide the specs of your 15R3 - specifically concerning the panel? I have found several articles and videos detailing issues with Alienware's display panels (screen-bleed, flickering etc), but most of them are from November 2016 to April 2017. And no answers or solutions are available. Your December 2017 model may have a different panel.

2. From your description the problem does seem to be a fundamental design flaw in the GPU and panel connection. Considering your own background in IT and the fact you seem to be tech-savvy person yourself - not to mention everything you've been through with Dell - I very much doubt I can offer anything close to a 'fix'. There is this link to nVidia's own support page but it's from November 2016:
http://nvidia.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/4250

3. I don't know if Intel's Virtualization Technology option is used anymore, but in the BIOS menu you might be able to find this feature and enable/disable it. Who knows, it may help. Then there's the G-Sync feature and the Tobii eye-tracker: Try disabling/enabling these features to see if it does anything.

4. Your experience with Dell's customer service - let's just call it that - is very similar to Lenovo's. This is probably because both manufacturers are very business-oriented companies with a support structure designed to deal with dedicated IT departments rather than private individuals. Their 'robot-like' approach presumes that you have endless resources - time, money and staff.

I hope you'll find a some kind of solution - even if you have to go with a completely different laptop.

Cheers,
GreyCatz.
 

johnvene

Prominent
Feb 7, 2018
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510
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Hey Greycatz, thank you so much for your response!

So these are my Alienware 15R3 specifications:
HD/IPS 1080P panel (60Hz) No GSync
GTX1060
16GB of ram
1TB + 256SSD
i7-7700HQ
Tobii eye-tracker with windows hello

I also did try messing with the tobii eye-tracker disabling it and even removing it.

I'll look into what you've sent me, I remember when I was trying to find a fix myself I didn't find anyone with my same exact problem though there were some that were very similar. Some guys found a temporary "fix" but not really a fix which was to add mouse pointer trails, that didn't work for me either unfortunately.

I made this same exact post on the dell forums and then Alienware forums and they were removed within a few minutos... Even though there were others with very similar or a worse title than mine.

Right now I just got approved for the return and full refund, I will decide by today if that's the unfortunate route I will take :/
 

GreyCatz

Admirable
All I can say is that if Dell have (finally) decided to bring this matter to a close, then I'd take the refund and run as fast as I can.

The 15R3 is a great-looking machine with high-end specs, so the panel issue is a damned shame. I don't mean to pour salt into your 'wound', but once you've cleared your mind of this Dell experience, take a look at this Gigabyte Aero from Amazon US:
https://www.amazon.com/GIGABYTE-Aero-15W-BK4-i7-7700HQ-GeForce/dp/B07141QMKD

Pretty much identical specs. It may be slightly more expensive, but you do get a 94Whr battery and half the bulk.

Best of luck,
GreyCatz.
 

johnvene

Prominent
Feb 7, 2018
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Thank you so much once again! They did approve my return/refund that I am going to get done ASAP! Now, moving on, I've actually been doing a lot of homework on which laptop to get next with my current budget and by process of elimination I have landed in these two options.

HP Omen 15T: (After a coupon and discounts ~$1360)

HP Wide Vision HD Camera and dual array digital microphone with 1Thunderbolt™ 3
802.11b/g/n/ac (2x2) Wi-Fi® and Bluetooth® 4.2 combo
OMEN by HP - 15t Laptop
Full-size island-style backlit keyboard with numeric keypad
No DVD or CD Drive
No Additional Office Software
4-cell 70 Wh Lithium-ion polymer Battery
1 TB 7200 rpm SATA; 256 GB PCIe® NVMe™ M.2 SSD
Security Software Trial
Windows 10 Home 64
16 GB DDR4-2400 SDRAM (2 x 8 GB)
Intel® Core™ i7-7700HQ (2.8 GHz, up to 3.8 GHz, 6 MB cache, 4 cores) + NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 1060 (6 GB GDDR5 dedicated)
15.6" diagonal FHD 144 Hz IPS anti-glare WLED-backlit (1920 x 1080) with NVIDIA G-SYNC™ technology


The only downside to this one is that it has an estimated shipping date of ~2/27/18

My second option is ASUS 15.6" GL503 (This one is higher than what I originally wanted to pay but will is recommended all over the place AND has a GTX1070) This one would run for around ~$1700

-slim 0.9" profile with carbon fiber pattern keyboard part. 15.6" 144Hz Full HD panel with IPS-type technology and NVIDIA G-SYNC.
7th-generation Intel(r) Core(tm) i7-7700HQ quad-core 2.8GHz (Turbo to 3.8GHz) with discrete GeForce(r) GTX(tm) 1070 8GB graphics. Dual-fan thermal design.
-256GB PCIe NVMe SSD + 1TB FireCuda SSHD for combination of fast OS drive speed and high capacity storage.
-Aura RGB lighting keyboard with 4 isolated hotkeys, 1.8mm key travel, and anti-ghosting technology. 4 zones of lighting control. 20-million keystroke durability.
-802.11ac 2x2 WiFi (up to 6x faster than traditional BGN); Bluetooth 4.1, 3x USB 3.0, 1x USB 3.1 (Type C), 1x USB 2.0, 1x HDMI, 1x Mini DisplayPort, 1x headphone/Mic jack, and 1x RJ45 LAN port.


The one you recommended is legit and top of the line but $1700 is already pushing my limit to the very maximum.

Lastly I found an MSI GX63VR: (~$1400)
GeForce GTX 1070 8 GB GDDR5
Intel Core i7 7th Gen 7700HQ (2.80 GHz)
16 GB Memory 1 TB HDD 256 GB M.2 SATA SSD
15.6" 1920 x 1080 120 Hz 3 ms, Wideview, 94% NTSC Color, Anti-Glare
15.08" x 10.24" x 1.08" 4.85 lbs.
1 x Mini DisplayPort, 1 x HDMI (4K @ 60Hz)
1 x USB 3.1 Type-C, 3 x USB 3.0


My conclusion with pros/cons:
Omen Pros:
-Price
-144hz G-Sync display.
-Good battery life for a gaming laptop.
-Best bang for the buck it seems?.
-Battery life ~5hrs.
-Easy internal access.

Cons:
-Quality is ok but could be better (There is some flex on the top of the screen when closed).
-I'm not really a fan of the wasd keys being red by default and getting the "gamer laptop" attention.
-Shipping from China which means I would receive it by the very last days of February but most likely sometime early March.

ASUS 15.6" GL503 Pros:
-Premium build and less of an attention grabber (which I like).
-GTX1070 8gb video memory.
-Also a 144hz G-Sync.
-RGB backlit keyboard.
-I'd receive this within a few days.
-Thinnest of the 3.

Cons:
-Price (This is pushing my very limit but still doable).
-One input port for audio/mic/headset?.
-Easy to access ram/ssd/hdd but difficult to open up completely.

MSI GX63VR Pros:
-120hz 3ms.
-GTX1070.
-RGB backlit keyboard.
-Price is fair.
-Fast shipping

Cons:
-Built quality could be better.
-Fast screen but still only 120hz and due to it being a TN panel viewing angles aren't the best.
-Very difficult to access all internals.
-Shortest battery life ~3hrs.

I must note, a GTX1070 seems like an overkill in the present but has a better outlook for the future (at least for me), right now I am just fine playing all games with a GTX1060 but I am also looking into getting more demanding games that are to be coming out later this year and would like to still be able to play them maxed out. Also, I do use my laptop on a daily basis which plays a factor on the shipping, I can wait for the Omen but it would be a bit of a sacrifice that I'm sure I could find a way around.

Current games I run on my laptop: Overwatch, Heroes of the Storm, Siege, Forza7, Destiny 2. The GTX1060 runs them all on Ultra no problem but its at ~80% on the heavier titles. The fact that I may be limited within a year or 2 bother me XD

Looking to get 2-3 of these games possibly in 2018: Farcry 5, GTA5, The Witcher 3, Rise of the Tomb Raider, PUBG, Assasins Creed Origins.

I'm open to thoughts, recommendations and corrections!

Thanks in advance! :)




 

GreyCatz

Admirable
Here are a few thoughts:

1. Given the laptops on your short-list and considering your gaming-style - present and future - it seems the ASUS is the machine to get. OK, you'll have to wait a few weeks and it is quite expensive, but spend a few minutes reading this January 2018 article from an Indian review site:
https://gadgets.ndtv.com/laptops/reviews/asus-rog-strix-gl503-scar-edition-review-1800582

A lot of good things to note - with a few drawbacks - and their run-down of tested games seems tailor-made for you.


2. As for the future, right now Intel's 8th-gen laptop CPUs (Kaby Lake-R) are only available with a 15W TDP limit. Typically, gaming laptops start at 45W, but PCWorld did a fairly comprehensive test in November 2017 pitting an 8th-gen CPU against different 7th and 4th-gen CPUs (dual-cores and quad-cores):
https://www.pcworld.com/article/3235813/laptop-computers/intel-8th-gen-core-i7-review.html

While I'm not suggesting you should buy an 8th-gen laptop with a 1060 card (I believe the Surface Book 2 is the only one available), it is noteworthy that the 15W CPU actually does quite well against the quad-core, full-on gaming 45W versions. Part of the reason is that Intel has designed 8th-gens to boost up to 4GHz and 4.2GHz.

That doesn't necessarily make them suited for serious gaming, and the 8th-gens are still behind the 45W CPUs. But it is an indication of what you can expect once Intel releases a 45W Kaby Lake-R model. Exactly when this is going to happen I don't know (mid-2018?), but I'm pretty sure you'd be able to play every game you want with the less expensive 1060 card instead of paying more for a 1070 card and having to deal with the extra heat and noise.

Cheers,
GreyCatz.
 

johnvene

Prominent
Feb 7, 2018
5
0
510
0
Thank you so much for all the insight and information GreyCatz! I ended up going with the ROG GL503 but with a gtx1060 instead (After further doing more research this GPU will work just fine for me). Bestbuy had it for $1499 on sale from $1599 and I also price matched it with Amazon and got it for $1360 at the end! I also get it within just a few days.

Thanks again!

Cheers mate!
 
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